Strangely Consistent

Theory, practice, and languages, braided together

Perl 6 and Perl 5 are different languages

Today at the YAPC::EU keynote, the inimitable Larry Wall, accompanied by his guardian angel and his guardian devil, made a poll asking which ones in the audience believed Perl 5 and Perl 6 are the same language, and which ones believed they are two different languages.

I was in the front row, so I didn't see the sea of hands and which way the poll tipped. But on my row, both Patrick Michaud and Jonathan Worthington voted "different". I was slightly surprised to find myself voting "different" as well. I'm the one who only last year wrote this entry which seems to insist on a "same" vote, if only by criticizing those who take the opposite view.

I think that what's happened in the past year is that there's a bit more room in the "Perl" space. We're now talking of two different languages in the Perl family, and the Perl community being shaped like a tuning-fork with its Perl-5 people, Perl-6 people, and Perl-omnivore people. It simply feels safer now to state "different", in a way it didn't last year.

One thing about the tuning fork that I really like is that it's basically two universes in one. We could've had

(a) Perl 6 taking off early and essentially killing Perl 5, precluding its renaissance as Modern Perl, or
(b) Perl 6 floundering so badly and for so long that Perl 5 took over with such force that no-one bothered to develop Perl 6 anymore, and a "Forever Five" condition in the community was announced.

Instead we find ourselves in a junctional universe where both languages are thriving and evolving. And they're different, not least because Perl 5 is older, more mature, and more used in business-oriented environments. But Perl 6 is getting there too, and the two languages will start playing together on increasingly equal footing, just like half-a-generation-apart siblings would.

I like that.